Power of the Dog

Review of Golden Globe Best Picture winner, ‘The Power of the Dog’

January 19, 2022 Mario Bautista 428 views

KodiTHE Power of the Dog’ just won as Golden Globe best drama picture and it’s being lionized by most critics. Honestly, we think that this year, just like last year, is one of slim pickings.

“Nomadland” won best pic last year and we really felt it’s overrated. Looks like “Power of the Dog” would win now and again, it is, for us, so overrated.

The first film of New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion (who won the Oscar for “The Piano”) after 12 years, it’s based on a the 1967 novel by Thomas Savage. The story is set in 1925 Montana (but the film was shot on location in New Zealand) and is a western with a twist as it’s not really about cowboys but more of a character study.

It’s about two brothers who own a ranch, Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons), who still sleep on the same bed. Phil is very macho. He looks down on guys who cannot do the macho things he does, like lassoing a rawhide, castrating a male cow with just two lashes of his knife, swimming naked in a pond and smearing his body with mud. He insults his own fat brother and calls him Fatso.

During a cattle drive, gentle George falls in love with a restaurant owner, Rose (Kirsten Dunst), a widow with a teenage son, Peter (Kodi Smith McPhee). George marries Rose and Phil does not hide his contempt for her sister-in-law, thinking she’s just a gold digger who married George because they are rich.

Rose and Peter move in with George in their ranch house and Phil makes fun of Peter for being effeminate. Phil also mocks and humiliates Rose in front of some guests, so she starts drinking. A lot U.S. writers call the movie “a tale of toxic masculinity.” Actually, it’s more “a tale of repressed kabaklaan.”

It soon becomes obvious that Phil is acting so macho because he’s really gay, which is the reason why he derides Peter and is so mean to Rose. Apparently, Phil had an affair with his former mentor named Bronco Henry who’s been dead for many years. He nearly died in a freezing winter, but Bronco Henry saved him by lying huddled closely to him. When Peter asked him if they were both naked at that time, he doesn’t reply.

Peter follows Phil in the woods and he sees Phil’s secret treasure trove of magazines with pictures of naked men and with Bronco Henry’s name on them. Phil also pleasures himself using a hanky owned by Bronco Henry and which he wraps around his neck while he is swimming.

But Phil will later get his comeuppance for being so antagonistic to Rose and Peter. He will also learn a deadly lesson from bullying them: don’t mess up with a gay teener who is studying medicine.

He dies from anthrax and it’s easy to deduce that it is Peter who deliberately caused the infection which worsened an open wound in his hand.

Later, we see Peter reading a verse from Psalm 22 that says: “Deliver my soul… from the power of the dog.” The dog here obviously refers to Phil. Nagtagumpay ang paghihiganti ng inaaping bading sa klosetang koboy!

Benedict got best actor nominations as Phil while Kirsten and Kodi got nominations for supporting performances, with Kodi winning at the recent Golden Globes. They’ll probably got nominated again the Oscars, but Benedict would never win as the industry’s darling and favorite is Will Smith for “King Richard”.

Benedict is good, but we prefer him as Dr. Strange. But after Will Smith, our next choice as best actor is Andrew Garfield, no, not as Jonathan Larson but as Peter Parker (he’s definitely better than the moronic Tom Holland – hahahaha!)

We think Kodi would be luckier. He’s known as the Nightcrawler in “X-Men”, but he really shines here as the seemingly harmless but actually scheming baklita who puts one over his tormentor.

Too bad for Jesse Plemons as there were long stretches when he suddenly just goes missing, so he never even got nominated like his real life wife Kirsten.

The movie is so slow paced that we felt we’re about to fall asleep in some scenes and all its mountainous vistas. Jane Campion obviously thinks there’s no need to rush the story development and this can be too cumbersome at times.

But the ending seems suddenly a bit rushed and so mutedly understated. We bet many simple viewers won’t understand it fully. The film’s message against homophobia is also a bit late. Maybe, in 1967, when the novel on which it’s based first came out, it could have sounded fresh and new, but now when LGBT causes are all over on films and television, you can hardly call it a disturbing piece of cinema that is meant to be an eye-opener. Tigilan nga ako!

AUTHOR PROFILE